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A Fairy Tale for Hard Times

Theater: ‘Annie’
compass@lakevillejournal.com

For a pretty standard fairy tale, complete with evil witch, imperilled orphan, a Titanically benevolent fairy godfather and, of course, a happy ending, the CenterStage production of “Annie” is smart and entertaining.
That is due in part to fine direction by AnnChris Warren, who’s good at keeping kids on stage from looking like headlight-stunned robots. Also, the music is smart. And the script is fine and often political (One of the shantytown residents sings out, “I’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover, you made us what we are today”).

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For the Fun of It

Theater: ‘Sleeping Beauty’
compass@lakevillejournal.com

Along with the program for a panto (a second lick of something Brit creeping into New England, the first being the annual Ghent panto) Sherman Playhouse staff hands out a song sheet and an invitation to a christening. And so “Sleeping Beauty,” a pantomime with all the trimmings — men in drag, women in drag, the wicked witch, a fairy queen, a boy and a girl (both girls in this case) a few cracks about local politics, a dose of burlesque whenever possible and plenty of audience participation ­— has settled into the holiday landscape.

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Noel Coward and Friends

Theater: ‘Present Laughter’
compass@lakevillejournal.com

In Noel Coward’s play about self-centered, histrionic and mostly attractive theater people, Garry Essendine stands out. That’s because Coward was re-creating himself in “Present Laughter,” the drawing room comedy he wrote in 1939, when the world was falling apart.
This handsome, mannered and articulate actor is always on. “I’m watching myself go by,” he tells us.

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A Gift of Theater in Torrington

This Saturday, Elizabeth Erwin and Ed Walsh of Fifth Letter Productions will perform a reading of O. Henry’s touching tale of love and sacrifice, “The Gift of the Magi,” at the Warner’s Nancy Marine Studio Theatre in Torrington, CT.
Erwin and Walsh performed “Last Train to Nibroc” in Nutmeg Ballet’s former studio in Torrington on Water Street last July.
The reading begins at 8 p.m., Dec. 17. Admission is canned or packaged food for the local food pantry.
For information, call 860-489-7180.

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Taking the Sweet With the Bitter

Theater: ‘The Santaland Diaries’
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David Sedaris tells us he’s 33 years old, yearning for a soap opera spot on TV, just $20 away from walking dogs and is so desperate he’ll take a job at Macy’s as a Christmas elf, if he can get it.

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Christmas, British Style, And an Interesting Marriage

Theater Scene
compass@lakevillejournal.com

The British panto (short for pantomime) has rules. Strict ones: Ties to children’s stories are essential; current events must be alluded to; some of the jokes should be a tad smutty; good must triumph over evil; the audience must participate. And it has to be fun. And funny.
Once again, The Ghent Playhouse panto, a production of the Panto-Loons, egged on by the very witty and very British (even though she has lived here for 52 years) Judy Staber, brings the novel holiday treat to American audiences, titled this year “Menagerie à Trois.”

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Stirring up Ideas. . .

Theater

“James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Eric Satie: An Alphabet,” is a play as dizzying as the teacup ride at Disney World.
It is a rarely performed piece by the American avant-garde composer, John Cage, that is being staged at Bard’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. It is in honor of the fourth year of the John Cage Trust at Bard College.

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Courage in the Quiet

Theater: ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’
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Rhinebeck’s Performing Arts Center, flooded out of business by Irene, reopened last weekend with a sober and sometimes witty “Diary of Anne Frank.”
Most people know about the Frank family and four other Jews, who hid together in cramped and mean quarters in Amsterdam to evade the Gestapo for more than two years. They had to speak in whispers, creep barefooted and refrain from using the the toilet during the day so workers below them would not know the annex was inhabitated.

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Still Memorable, After All These Years

Theater: ‘Dial M for Murder’
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The trailer says, “a movie you will never forget.” That was back in 1954, and the trailer was right. But “Dial M for Murder” started life in 1952 as a play by Frederick Knott (who seems to have obsessed on vulnerable women — he wrote “Wait Until Dark” as well). It’s smart, tidy and very British: all good reasons to roll it out at the Ghent Playhouse for those who remember “Dial M” fondly, if not particularly well.

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Complications, Always

Theater: ‘The Glass Menagerie’
compass@lakevillejournal.com

Because tropical storm Irene flooded The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, last month, heaping great losses in costumes, sets, equipment and sold seats on this community theater space, the Centerstage production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” was moved to Kaatsbaan in Tivoli, NY.
Kaatsbaan, of course, is for dance; not plays. The stage is wide and deep, leaving the four actors marooned in a sea of darkness.
Which worked quite well, as it turned out. For this is a dark play about four trapped people, impoverished, desperate and defeated at every turn.

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